Posts Tagged games for people with dementia

Play the Ungame


While there is a version specifically for seniors, there also Christian versions, Catholic versions, family versions, etc. Whatever version you play, the Ungame is less about competition and more about learning more about yourself and your fellow players. The non-competitive atmosphere is nice for those with memory loss, as they don’t have to worry about answering correctly or forgetting some key rule that will be embarrassing when they violate it. Instead, players take turns rolling the dice and asking and answering questions based on the spaces they land on and the corresponding cards, if applicable. There are no right or wrong answers, and it’s a great way to get to know about the loved one with dementia by starting conversations that might not otherwise come up.

The Ungame can be purchased at its official website or on

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Play Rack-O


Rack-O first debuted in 1956, but I just bought it at an estate sale and let me tell you, it’s stood the test of time well. The rules, modified from, are below:

1. Remove cards from the deck according to the number of players you have. If the game includes three players, remove cards with numbers 51 to 60. For two players, remove cards with numbers 41 to 60. Do not remove any cards for a four-player game.
2. Place the card tray in the center of the table with the pile of cards in the draw pile. The other side of the tray will hold discards. Give each player a RACKO rack.
3. Deal each player cards one at a time, face down, until each player has 10 cards. Return the remainder of the cards face down to the draw section of the tray. Turn over the top card and place it face up in the discard pile.
4. Stack your cards into the rack one at a time as they are dealt, starting at the rear slot–labeled 50–and moving forward until all slots are full.
5. Start game play with the player on the dealer’s left. That player can take either the top card on the discard pile or the top card on the draw pile.
6. Replace a card in the rack with a newly drawn card, with a goal of getting all of your cards in the rack in order from lowest to highest, moving front to back. If you take a card from the discard pile, you must play it in the rack. If you take a card from the draw pile, you can immediately discard it, if you don’t want to place it in the rack.
7. Continue playing clockwise around the table until one player calls “RACKO” by getting all 10 of his cards in numerical order. This first person who calls “RACKO” is the winner or….
8. Score the round. The player who achieved RACKO earns 75 points. Each other player receives five points for each card in proper numerical order from front to back on his rack. Cards arranged in proper order after the first break in order do not count. For example, a player whose rack reads: “5, 9, 13, 24, 25, 32, 4, 35, 42, 55″ would score points only up to the point at which the “4″ card breaks the proper order. Keep track of the score on a piece of paper. Play rounds until one player reaches 500 points; that player is the winner of RACKO. If two players surpass 500 points on the same round, the player with the higher score wins.

The great thing about Rack-o, besides its simple objective that is easily repeated to those with memory loss, is that since it’s heyday was a few decades back, it, and its rules, may be stuck somewhere in the dusty parts of the person’s long-term memory, meaning that it should be easier to play than learning a brand-new game. Of course, you can always modify the rules as needed to make it even easier (use fewer cards, for example) if necessary, or play in teams so someone can help the person with memory loss.

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Look at “Chatterbox” Cards


Looking for a last minute gift for someone with memory loss in your life? Look no further! These reminiscing cards by Chatterbox are a great option for those whose memories of the past are stronger than those of the present. In the companies own words, “1940s and 1950s CHATTERBOX cards create opportunities for people to enjoy each other’s company across the generations, by encouraging interaction, communication and connection, for everyone’s pleasure and benefit….The 26 card subjects in each box were researched among over 160 people between the ages of 65 and 99 years old.
They are the everyday subjects that everyone finds amusement in remembering, like holidays and home life; hairdos and handkerchiefs. They make it easy to enjoy fascinating and fun conversations about people’s life experiences from a time that holds some of their most vibrant and enduring memories.”

Even better, these cards even include background information and a few conversation starters on the back. They’re sold only in the U.K., but thanks to the internet you can have them shipped right to your door! Just visit their website at .

Even if the person with memory loss doesn’t speak much, that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy looking at items from the past. In fact, don’t be surprised if these familiar items and topics prompt a few comments more than interactions with the here and now!

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Play Darts

dart board

Playing darts is a nice way to tap into old memories for some or a simple motion for those who are unfamiliar with the game to learn. Of course, playing with someone with demenita might mean not keeping score, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be fun! A former dart player might hvae stories to reminisce about, such as where they played, a memorable bulls eye, or even a memorable miss! The person with memory loss might like to play alone just for “practice” or of course a competition can be set up between multiple players. You may want to consider using a darts that don’t have sharp tips, such as the magnetic option above, or the velcro or spiked versions, below.

velcro darts


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Play Indoor Basketball

Photo courtesy from

Photo courtesy from

An over-the-door basketball hoop is a great way to get a little exercise (and blow off steam)! Models such as the one shown above simply hang over the door and use a foam ball to avoid damage from errant throws. Those in the early stage might like it hung in a common area, study, or office to give them something to do in between activities or while they’re working through a block in their memory. Those in the middle stages will likely need to be cued to shoot some hoops as a distinct activity, but men in particular shouldn’t need much instruction-putting the ball in their hand and pointing out the hoop should be all the cueing they need to start playing. Those who are still able to walk can certainly chase after their own ball, those who are unsteady on their feet may need a ball boy or ball girl. You might also find that people are more willing to play if you take turns shooting with them or play simple games such as who can make the most baskets out of ten throws, etc..

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Compare Prices-Then and Now


This is a good activity for when you’re waiting somewhere and need something to keep you and the person with memory loss entertained. If you’re like me, you always have a few receipts floating around in your purse or pocket, so pull those suckers out and put them to good use! You can ask the person with memory loss to tell you how much each or all of the items on the receipt would have cost when they were young (examples:”How much was a gallon of milk and a box of cereal?” or “How much did a week’s worth of groceries cost you?”). Or, you can make it a game and see if they can guess how much an item costs today (using the receipts as proof, or course!). receipts are also a way to start conversations about items that were rationed during WWII and the clever and not-so-clever substitutes people used.

Of course, you don’t HAVE to have a receipt on you to reminisce about these topics, but they can give you ideas. Besides, it can be fun to see the shock on someone’s face when they are presented with proof that gas no longer costs 25 cents a gallon!

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Play Croquet

I have very fond memories of playing croquet at family reunions as a child, but as I started to write this post, I realized that I couldn’t really remember the rules. Of course, I turned the trusty internet to remind me. After reading a few articles on various websites, I now know why I couldn’t remember–the rules are really complicated! Well, that and I’m not so sure that we ever really played by the rules.

If you want the official rules, please visit, as the order you are supposed to follow as you hit your ball through the wickets (metal arches) is too complex for me to explain here. However, if you read them and scratch your head, as I did, don’t worry–just make up your own order. Heck, you can even make up the shape of the course (my family did!).

For those who have played croquet before and remember the rules, playing with the official set-up and rules may be best, but for everyone else, just set up some wickets, grab a mallet and a ball or two and have fun taking turns trying to hit the ball through the wickets. Those with more moderate memory loss will likely do best if you only point out the next wicket to shoot for, rather than explaining the order of the entire course. If you need a solo activity, why not set up a croquet “putting course” and have the person practice hitting the ball through the wicket. You might find they have more fun and less frustration without the interruption that taking turns hitting the ball can bring.

Of course, no matter what rules you follow (or make up!), playing croquet can be a good jumping off point for reminiscing. You can ask if they’ve played before, what other summer games they played, or even if they remember the scene in Alice in Wonderland where they play croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs instead of mallets and balls!

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Play with Pattern Blocks

pattern block cards
wooden pattern blocks and cards

foam blocks
foam pattern blocks

These blocks are a nice way to keep those fine-motor skills sharp. You can use them in many ways-you can place the blocks on the cards to create pre-determined shapes or patterns, or you can make your own designs (the former is probably easier for those with more signficant cognitive impairment). You can even just sort them by shape and color if making patterns is too hard/frustrating. This activity is lots of fun for grandkids, too, so it’s a great way to get some intergenerational fun started!

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Play Horseshoes


Horseshoes is a fun summer game that relies on our old friend here at the activity blog, long-term memory. However, even if the game is new to the person with memory loss, the simple rules are easy to remember (or repeat as necessary) so fun can still be had. I recommend using rubber horseshoes and portable mats, just because I think they seem like the would hurt less if you hit by one (even though they would still smart–they’re still heavy) and you don’t have to worry about pounding stakes in the ground/not seeing them and tripping over them. However, that’s just my preference.

You’ll need: 4 horseshoes, 2 stakes.

Generally, the two stakes are placed 40 feet apart. Men usually throw, or “pitch” from a line two feet from the stake they are not pitching from (aka 38 feet away from the stake they are aiming for). Women generally pitch from 27 feet from the stake they are aiming for, but feel free to change the distance to whatever works best for you. I certainly won’t tell anyone!

To play, a player from the starting team throws their two horseshoes, then a player from the second team throws their two horseshoes (both are thrown at the same stake). Once finished, count up your points. Like always, there are lots of different ways to score, but officially, you award 1 point for each horseshoe within 6 inches of the stake and 3 points for each horseshoe for each “ringer” or horseshoe that encircles the stake. However, some people award 2 points if the horse shoe is touching the stake, but not encircling it.

For the next round, the teams throw the horseshoes at the other stake, and score as above.

The game ends either after 40 throws are over, or as soon as a team hits 40 points, depending on how you play. Of course, you can alter those goal numbers as well to suit your needs.

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Play Go Fish


This simple card game of your youth is great for people with memory loss for the reasons that, I’m sure, you’re tired of reading about. It’s stored in your long-term memory, which is generally better-preserved; it’s short, so it can keep an individual’s attention; and it’s easily modified for increasing impairment. For those with more impairment, you can play the game with “teams” or even have everyone lay their cards face up in front of them rather than keeping their hand hidden (this allows their opponent to help make suggestions as to what they should ask for). You can also play with 1/2 a deck of regular cards (Example, use only 2 suits or only use the numbered cards), which makes it easier. Or use a speciality deck of cards designed exclusively for go fish, like the one below, which often are smaller decks to begin with and may have easier-to-distinguish differences between the cards. Again, like the one below, which has different colored fish rather than numbered cards.

go fish<

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